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On a mission to Manchester

New Zealand's No. 4 looks back on his first Test in England, and prepares for the Old Trafford showdown

Ross Taylor

May 22, 2008

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Ross Taylor: plenty to work on between Tests © Getty Images
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It's a happy New Zealand camp after we overcame the worst of the batting conditions on the first day at Lord's and went from being the only side that could lose the game to making it very difficult for England had there been an extra day. Our aim is to take that momentum into the second Test here in Manchester. Significantly, too, our bowlers were not over-exerted, having to bowl just the once.

There were some brilliant performances by the guys and it was a thrill to witness Jacob Oram's ton and Daniel Vettori's five-for. Hopefully I'll be back on the next tour to see their names etched on the honours board in the dressing-room. I felt for Brendon McCullum when he was out for 97. He dug us out of a big hole in the first innings and watching him blaze away from the balcony was great fun.

On his debut, Daniel Flynn impressed us all with a very composed knock, supporting Jacob on the last day. Aaron Redmond showed promise too: there's not much you can do when you get two good balls as he did from James Anderson.

Speaking of Anderson, I was mightily relieved he missed the stumps when I took off for that single off the third ball I faced. I was looking to rotate the strike, which is important to do wherever possible when the conditions are as testing as they were in that first session.

I was very disappointed with the way I got out. I was a little nervous when I walked out to bat, but playing across the line as I did to a shorter ball from Stuart Broad was not part of my game plan. Test cricket has its own special tempo and I was too rushed. I'll learn from that, as I do each time I bat in Test cricket. Though I've been in the side for a while, the next game will be just my seventh Test match.

The key is to work hard in the nets between Tests. I'll be focusing on tightening up my defence, with help from our batting coach Mark O'Neill. I'll be getting our bowlers to bowl with the new ball, to swing it both ways, so I can simulate match conditions as much as possible.

Video analysis is one tool available to help us prepare. The bowlers in particular, they like it for looking at their own actions and the opposition batsmen to make sure they don't miss something that might give them a new plan of attack. Personally I don't use video analysis a lot, especially not during a tour or tournament. I like to keep things as simple as possible.

Getting from London to Manchester was a mission, with the bus trip taking five and a half hours. James Marshall was in charge of entertainment and normally a movie and a good comedy TV show would get a pass mark, but with the extra hour or so, he was found wanting.

Actually, James has had a rough time of it on this tour. If I was a bit annoyed when the Test programme at Lord's said I was Maori when I'm in fact half-Samoan, James must be sick to death of people thinking he is his brother Hamish. There have been some classics: "Who's playing in your place at Gloucestershire now?" was one; "So, are you any relation to Hamish Marshall?" was another. James simply replied "Yeah, I'm his twin brother!"

The boys find it hilarious but it must be starting to wear thin for James. As for me, my mother is Samoan and I love it when our heritage is recognised. What's really cool is hearing about how many of my relations and their friends are now into watching cricket. I took up cricket after watching my Dad play each weekend when I was young and I really enjoyed it, just as other Samoan kids enjoy rugby and league.

There's a good vibe around town and we were looking forward to watching Man United in the Champions League final. Some of the guys are quite into soccer, including Jacob, who was a useful goalkeeper in his time. Maybe he even dreamed about playing at Old Trafford. Come Friday, though, like the rest of us, he'll be focused on trying to knock over England at the cricket ground next door.

New Zealand middle-order batsman Ross Taylor's diaries will appear on Cricinfo through the England series. Taylor spoke to Andrew McLean, an expatriate cricket writer based in London

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